In my latest print column for Variety, I look at the 18-day period beginning next week bringing a wave of awards milestones that could impact the Oscar races, with special attention to the films and talent that have the most at stake.

Get on your toes. Prick up your ears. It’s time for the “stand up and take notice” phase of awards season to begin.

This latest proving ground will start with a pair of sprightly shots across the bow: the Nov. 26 Gotham Independent Film Awards, followed the next morning by the Indie Spirit Awards nominations.

Then, after the calendar turns to December, it revs up in earnest, with …

• the New York Film Critics announcements on Dec. 3

• the National Board of Review reveal on Dec. 5

• the Los Angeles Film Critics awards on Dec. 9

• the American Film Institute top 10 on Dec. 10

• the SAG Award noms on Dec. 12

… all leading up to the Golden Globes noms Dec. 13.

Those 2 1/2 weeks won’t determine who is going to win the Oscars. But they will contribute to the most important aspect of Oscar campaigns: encouraging overwhelmed balloteers to see certain films and perhaps discouraging them from others. …

Read the entire piece here.